Survey of Jonah
Book Type: The fifth book of the Minor Prophets; the thirty-second book of the Old Testament; the thirty-second book of the Bible.
Author: Jonah, named directly in the first verse. Jonah is a unique prophet: he goes to great lengths trying to avoid God's call. Jonah also responds to the repentance of Nineveh with anger, since he would rather have seen them destroyed.
Audience: Jonah was written both to the Gentile people of Nineveh as well as for the education of the Jewish people. God sent Jonah to preach to the wicked people of Nineveh regarding His upcoming judgment. However, Jonah instead ran from God and experienced his own judgment through being swallowed by a great fish. Jonah prayed and was rescued. He then obeyed the Lord and preached to the people of Nineveh. The people repented and God saved the city from His judgment. Jonah was angry at the Lord's mercy, yet the Lord reminded him of the importance of the many people in the city who repented. The book also presents repentance by both Jews (Jonah) and Gentiles, revealing God's compassion on all who repent and turn to Him.
Date: Between approximately 793 and 758 BC.
Overview: Jonah consists of four chapters. The first chapter addresses Jonah's call to preach in Nineveh, his attempt to run away from God, and the consequences that followed. Jonah illustrates the futility of running from God: the chapter ends with Jonah being thrown into the sea and swallowed by a great fish.
Chapter 2 provides the prayer of Jonah. He calls out to God in his distress (Jonah 2:2) while in the belly of the fish. God answers his prayer, speaks to the fish, and the fish vomits Jonah onto dry land (Jonah 2:10).
Chapter 3 gives the account of Jonah faithfully obeying the Lord to preach in Nineveh. After this second call (Jonah 3:1–2), Jonah obeys and proclaims destruction would come in forty days. The people of Nineveh believe God, fast, and mourn in response (Jonah 3:5). The king even issues a decree for no person or animal to eat, but to pray to the Lord for mercy (Jonah 3:6–9). When they do, the Lord shows them mercy (Jonah 3:10).
Chapter 4 offers the response of Jonah. Rather than rejoicing, he wants to die (Jonah 4:3). Jonah then rests outside the city under a plant the Lord had provided. The next day, the plant is gone and Jonah is so angry he again wants to die (Jonah 4:8). The Lord reminds Jonah that the people of Nineveh are much more important than the plant that had died. The Lord chose to have compassion on them and cared for them much more than Jonah cared about a plant that produced shade. God's love is clearly shown for all people who respond to Him.
Key Verses (ESV):
Jonah 1:3: "But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the LORD."
Jonah 1:17: "And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights."
Jonah 2:2: "I called out to the LORD, out of my distress, \ and he answered me; \ out of the belly of Sheol I cried, \ and you heard my voice."
Jonah 3:10: "When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it."